Fire damage at the click of a mouse

31 January 2003

Teams of scientists from Geoscience Australia equipped with palm top computers and digital cameras have been assessing property damage in Canberra's western suburbs, following the firestorm that swept through the area on 18 January.

Data regarding the extent of damage to property, construction type of buildings and construction materials used, are entered directly into a geographical information system (GIS), which allows all the information to be retrieved at the click of a mouse.

Over 1500 digital photos have also been captured by the team, all linked to the damage information in the GIS. Although they depict a tragic scene, these photos also hold important scientific information.

The Leader of the project from Geoscience Australia, Greg Scott said, "There is a lot of information in the rubble. We can tell what the buildings were constructed from... whether they had tiled roofs for example". He continued, "other aspects such as vegetation type and distribution also hold potentially valuable information about fire vulnerability".

Data collection was completed today, with the next few weeks spent processing and analysing the GIS information.

When combined with other scientific data such as fire spread and intensity, this information will be used to assist in evaluating the potential vulnerability of the ACT to fire. This will also contribute to the ongoing development of emergency management procedures.

Topic contact: Last updated: October 4, 2013